Kennecott and Trans Superior to Explore in the Ottawa National Forest

By Gabriel Caplett

March 18, 2009

Marquette, MichiganDespite the global economic downturn, debt-burden and deferment of its keystone Eagle nickel project, Kennecott Minerals is pushing forward with new prospecting activities on public forest land in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Joining the fray is a Canadian junior exploration company, Trans Superior Resources, which is quietly continuing the search for uranium and metallic minerals.

The Ottawa National Forest (“Ottawa”) is accepting public comment on applications submitted for mineral prospecting on approximately 2,160 acres of public forest land in Baraga, Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon counties.


According to Lee Ann Atkinson, with the Lands and Minerals division of the Ottawa, Kennecott and Trans Superior’s applications are currently in a “scoping period” with no formal end to public comment. Once the Forest Service completes an environmental assessment for the projects, the public will again be invited to comment during a 30-day period.

Atkinson said that she is not sure when the comment period will begin for the environmental assessment.

Kennecott is pursuing three separate project areas located within the Ottawa. According to a Forest Service scoping letter, the company is looking for “all base and precious metals and other precious and semi-precious minerals”. The 640-acre “Watersmeet” parcel is located roughly four miles southeast of Watersmeet; the 200-acre “Haight” parcel is located roughly 8 miles northwest of Watersmeet; and the 395-acre “Bates” parcel is located on Perch Lake, roughly 20 miles north of the town of Iron River.

Credit: Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve

Kennecott Exploration, Credit: Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve

Kennecott has been trying to open the nickel-copper- precious metals Eagle Project mine, on the Yellow Dog Plains, southwest of Big Bay. The company has other metallic sulfide prospects, including exploration near the Huron River and on the L’Anse Indian Reservation.

On February 12, 2009 the company announced that development of the Eagle Project is now “deferred until market conditions recover.” Australian media had been speculating, since May 2008, that “permitting delays and the collapse in the nickel price could mean this. . . project gets shelved.”

Kennecott has yet to obtain complete mining and surface use lease permits from the State of Michigan as well as mining permit amendments for its ore haul road and electricity plans for the mine. To open the Eagle Project, the company must secure an underground injection permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before it can proceed with mining activities.

Kennecott is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London, England-based Rio Tinto.

Trans Superior is also pursuing three parcels, totaling 920 acres in an attempt to locate “nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, palladium and associated minerals.” All are located just east of Prickett Lake and roughly 8 miles southwest of the town of Baraga. The company had previously obtained federal uranium prospecting permits from the Ottawa for exploration activities adjacent to the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness as well as for locations east and northeast of Lake Gogebic. The new Prickett Lake projects are immediately to the northeast of the Sturgeon Wilderness.

Trans Superior’s parent company, Bitterroot Resources, claims to own mineral rights to over 360 square miles in Baraga, Houghton, Iron and Ontonagon counties. In addition to its federal mineral leases within the Ottawa forest, Bitterroot has also obtained “leases or prospecting permits” with the State of Michigan and private land owners.

In 2003, Bitterroot began a 780 square mile joint venture agreement with uranium mining giant Cameco in efforts to locate a high-grade uranium deposit. Bitterroot cited Kennecott’s success in locating the Eagle ore deposit as the impetus behind its accelerated exploration. The company had previously been involved in a joint venture with Kennecott to explore for nickel, copper, platinum and palladium in the Upper Peninsula.

Federal mineral permits are approved and administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Ottawa National Forest’s role is to conduct environmental analyses, in cooperation with the BLM, at the project locations, in addition to receiving public comment on the proposed exploration activities.

  • Comments on Kennecott and Trans Superior’s exploration proposals should be addressed to:

Susan Spear, Forest Supervisor

Ottawa National Forest

E6248 E. US 2

Ironwood, MI 49938

Phone: (906) 932-1330

E-mail: [put “Comments on Federal Minerals in the subject line]

  • Comments can also be directed, orally, or hand-delivered to Ms. Spear’s office. Office hours are: 8am to 4pm, Central Time, Monday through Friday (excepting federal holidays)
  • Information on the projects can be found at
  • For additional information, contact Lee Ann Atkinson at (906) 932-1330, ext. 308, or e-mail

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